A former Hitachi worker says he cannot see “any hope” for the train builder in Newton Aycliffe, with its future now hanging in the balance.

The former worker, who has asked to remain anonymous, landed his dream job at the factory in 2017 two years after the manufacturing giant proudly opened in the North East, beating off competition from around the world.

However, 750 jobs at the site are now at risk as well as a further 1,400 jobs indirectly in the supply chain after talks with the government to keep their order books full had “not resulted in a positive resolution”.

Orders for 56 trains remain in the coming months, but The Northern Echo understands they could run out by the end of the year, before work on the HS2 contract is due to start.

“It was a dream job. I absolutely loved it when I was there,” said the former worker.

“I don’t think anybody felt secure in their jobs. There were talks of making some people permanent as everyone was taken on with a one-year fixed contract.

“My performance reviews were always positive, so I had always hoped it would be a job for life and I could retire afterwards.”

Ministers have told Hitachi they had no plans to order more trains to run on the West Coast mainline, which the firm saw as the only viable way to plug the production gap.

The Echo campaigned ten years ago to bring the factory to the region, and is now urging the Government to keep it on track by extending the company’s contract - or do everything in its power to find other orders to plug the gap.

Despite these calls, the worker said he believes there is “no room for favouritism” in the business.

He said: “We were always kept up to date each month with contracts and when they were coming to an end. They would tell us that the contract had ended but they were actively seeking other work.

“I was there when they put a bid in for Nexus for trains on the Tyne and Wear Metro and there was a lot of discussion at the time that the government should have awarded it to Hitachi - but that’s not the way procurement works.

“Whoever puts in the best bid gets the job that’s how it’s been and how it always will be.”

The Northern Echo has now launched a campaign to save the plant, urging the government to keep the site on track.

Multiple politicians including Sir Keir Starmer and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell have shown their support for the campaign, with the Labour leader saying he is “very concerned” about the future of the site.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he sympathises with the company but offered no solution to the impending crisis.

Speaking to The Northern Echo at Teesworks on Tuesday, the PM revealed that the department for transport is “in close dialogue with Hitachi”.

“There are orders that are coming down the line,” Mr Sunak said.

“It’s hard for me to comment on one individual order but we want to make sure that we support rail manufacturing in the UK, it’s really important.”

He added: “There’s a limit with what I can say about commercially sensitive conversations.

“There are upcoming contracts for a few different rail companies, Chiltern and South Eastern from memory and a couple of others.

“There are orders that are coming down the line. It’s hard for me to comment on one individual order but we want to make sure that we support rail manufacturing in the UK, it’s really important.”

Responding, the Hitachi worker said: “I am gutted for the people who work there because I do have good friends who are still there now.

“All of this is awful. When they announced with a big fanfare that they were coming to Aycliffe I told myself that I would work there.

“I felt like a football player coming out of the tunnel you counted yourself very lucky that you had landed a job there.

“You couldn’t walk into the main assembly hall and see all those train sets in front of you without feeling a lot of pride.

“I couldn’t help but feel so self-satisfied knowing I had a part in making trains that will be running for nearly 40 years there is a part of me on the railway for years to come.”

“Unfortunately, I can’t see any hope at the moment."


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A Hitachi Rail spokesperson said: “We have been engaged in discussions at all levels of UK Government for two years, in an attempt to find a solution to the production gap at our Newton Aycliffe manufacturing facility.

“Disappointingly these discussions have not resulted in a positive resolution. We are now reviewing all remaining options available to us in order to keep our manufacturing teams building rolling stock to support the UK rail industry.”